Rachel Suggs is a Baltimore-based illustrator whose soft mixture of water-based media and (sometimes) pencil conjure both beauty and intrigue. Her colorful-yet-desaturated compositions, often fantastical, feature people whose lives are intimately tied to nature. Tall trees, weeping branches, and florals are both background decor as well as the main characters in her illustrations.
Symbols and metaphors are prominently featured in Sugg’s works. We aren’t always given a clear sense of where a person or thing is, but based on the environment surrounding them, we can infer the emotions and motivation behind the subjects in her illustrations. Snakes and serpents show up in her work, which could communicate danger. Sometimes, we see birds and bugs, which, depending on what they are, could mean a metamorphosis or rebirth.
Romanian illustrator Aitch creates colorful images that are ripe with magentas, turquoises, electric yellows, and more. But, don’t let those bright pigments confuse you. While cheerful, there are some macabre moments that add an intriguing element to her detailed paintings.
Aitch is inspired by her travels, naturalistic illustrations, naive art, and folklore from around the world. You definitely get the sense of this through her series like The Garden of Good and Evil and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both, as you might guess, are the retelling of stories – original sin and the C.S. Lewis tale, respectively – but through her own imagery and voice. Here, full-sized women with an array of unusual tattoos interact with the psychedelic landscape and a cast of fantastical creatures.
The same women appear throughout Aitch’s work in other series like Coffins. Here, it’s much like it sounds – we see decorative coffins, people buried underground, and a meditation on what happens after we’re gone. Her style lends itself to a more lighthearted, beautiful depiction of death and a return to nature where we’re wrapped up in gorgeous vines and flowers.
Davit Yukhanyan is an Armenian architect and illustrator whose incredible works have an stunning amount of detail. Each large and complex drawing contains hundreds of tiny drawings within its dimensions, and a central shaded figure occupies the center with outlined figures behind it. However, shading isn’t necessarily made using just your traditional pen techniques. Instead, animals, people, and objects fit together like pieces of a puzzle and change in scale. The smaller they are, the more dense the drawing which alters how dark it appears to the viewer.
Considering just how intricate Yukhanyan’s work is – with pieces measuring about 27 inches by 39 inches – it’s no surprise that he’s only produced two so far. Titled And When You Lose Control and Isolated Winner, the massive artworks are inspired by the world we live in. “Just as everything in our world consists of different pieces, my drawing also consists of different pieces in the form of small illustrations that come together into one overall creation,” he writes on Bored Panda. “I draw the artwork with this concept in mind.” (Via Demilked and Bored Panda)
Sit Haiiro is an artist from the Netherlands whose monochromatic illustrations are slightly askew. The portraits of young kids and animals have a serious tone to them, and they’re obscured by slight planal shifts, digital elements, and mysterious clouds. There’s little context to Haiiro’s works, with his subjects devoid of background or environment. This gives an eerie and off-putting feeling to the hand-crafted images, and it’s as if they are out of a dream.
Haiiro’s characters are very active and full of energy. Dogs are running at full speed, a crow is in the midst of flight, and a child jumps as high as he can. But, every action is punctuated and falls short. Pixelation and thin lines fracture faces, bodies, and enthusiasm. There’s an obvious visual sparring between the two, and Haiiro describes it as, “where the calm surroundings provide more opportunity for decision making, rather than being driven by the fast moving winds of change.” (Via Inspiration Feed)
Italian illustrator Virginia Mori uses black ballpoint pen and pencil on paper to create strange, lady-centric compositions. The minimal drawings feature long-haired women in surreal situations. Heads are often seen severed or parts of the body are fused with furniture. Although they are weird, Mori’s work isn’t gruesome. Even when a umbrella handle is coming out of a character’s mouth, there’s no blood or guts. It’s simply a surreal scene.
Mori separates mind from body, in both literal and figurative ways. Heads are rolling, they exist on different levels, and are obstructed by hair. It represents the idea that we can “disconnect” our mental from our physical self, and that this separation can feel like two entities. But in Mori’s illustrations, what causes it? Mystics? Physical ailments? Lessons not learned? The sparse compositions allow for multiple interpretations.
Stefan G. Bucher is a graphic designer, illustrator, author, creator of monsters, and pursuer of obsessions. The (sole) creative force behind 344, his clients have included art galleries, film directors, magazines, record companies, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Blue Man Group. If you’ve seen the Yeti themed Saks Christmas windows, you’ve seen Stefan’s work. The Daily Monster is his, too. The cover of The Matrix soundtrack; typography for Mirror, Mirror; Blue Man Theater. All Stefan G. Bucher.
Aside from his amazing and prodigious creative skills, Stefan is an astute observer of culture and a consistently funny writer. He agreed to be interviewed for Beautiful/Decay.
B/D: Thanks for talking with me, Stefan—I’m just going to jump right in. What’s the most interesting thing you’re working on right now?
Stefan Bucher: It’s my pleasure. The most interesting project I’m working on right now is the pitch for an animated show surrounding the Daily Monsters. It’s a long process of uncertain outcome, but it involves a lot of things I love—illustration, working with a brilliant writer and a genius animation producer, thinking about music and character design. It’s great! I’m also working on a solo gallery show for the spring. That’s just a big beast breathing down my neck. I don’t know how much of it will be retrospective and how much will be new work. I just want it to be a fun trip for the audience.
French artist Celine Artigau is never really alone. In her series of manipulated photographs, “Goodbye Childhood”, she inserts spectral neon figures into photos of places with personal resonance. She says:
“These luminous characters are the souls of these places and ghosts of my childhood. They are like some lonely and abandoned imaginary friends that still follow me and haunt my life.”
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, the figures are simple outlines rendered with a neon glow. Their simplicity is what makes them work. Photoshopping “ghosts” into images—copying and pasting figures from one photo to another and lowering the opacity—has been done and done. With Artigau’s lost souls, the artifice is intentional; these wandering ghosts are meant to look illustrative and not realistic.
“Concerning the process, I use Illustrator to create my character and then Photoshop to integrate it into my picture. For my light effects, I use a mixture of layers and blur effects but the precise process is always different from one project to the next.” (Source)
In this series, Artigau has resurrected her childhood imaginary friends, allowing them to live in the in-between places and shine their light.
What’s in a word? That’s what the prolific and internationally known Asian-American artist Omocat has been faced with lately. In the midst of her recent “shota” t-shirt release (pictured here), the artist’s intentions have in instances been taken widely out of context. Embraced by Japanese fans that understand the context, some others have used it as a brutal platform for Western backlash. In this instance something got lost in translation between hemispheres, and it is increasingly important that we explore the context and origin of the Japanese word shota and, above all, what this illustrates about western views on sexuality and gender.
Omocat’s continuum of work includes illustration, comic-books, clothing and merch with her designs. Her imagery and content is often based on shota (which loosely translates to mean “pretty boy”) or loli (an expansive style and sometimes fetish originating in Nabakov’s Lolita). All of these artistic expressions stem from Otaku, an umbrella term for the Japanese manga-centric subculture that also informs the work of artist Takashi Murakami. It is important to note that Omocat is quite vocal and literal within the work on her feelings towards social justice and self-empowerment in gender and sexual identity, with a strong personal stance against bullying. This is illustrated fully in her comic “Pretty Boy,” featured here. Omocat is even working on a collaborative artistic effort against bullying set to launch later this fall.